Ready for takeoff! We drank 3 rounds with the hotshot cast of Top Gun: Maverick
It's been almost three years since shooting wrapped on the COVID-delayed Top Gun: Maverick. Yet, watching the obvious bond between the six cast members who, in early May, gathered at Nason's Beer Hall in San Diego to sink three rounds with EW, you could be fooled into thinking production wrapped yesterday.
"We've all kept in contact pretty regularly throughout, which is rare," says actor Lewis Pullman.
In the much-anticipated sequel, Pullman, Monica Barbaro, Jay Ellis, Danny Ramirez, Greg Tarzan Davis, and Glen Powell all play pilots who are rigorously trained by Tom Cruise's Pete "Maverick" Mitchell to undertake a dangerous mission. In real-life, they have the easy, joshing repartee of folks whose relationships were forged in the crucible of a special, unique, and, as we shall discover, vomit-inducing quest.
But how will those friendships be affected by alcohol? We'll find out today, particularly as Davis has an idea for making proceedings a little more boozy.
"Every time Tom Cruise's name gets brought up, we must take a drink," he says. "And I'm not talking about a sip, I mean a gulp."
"Full name, Tom Cruise, or just Tom?" asks Barbaro.
"Tom and Cruise or Cruise and Tom or Thomas or whatever," clarifies Davis.
Strap on your parachutes, this should be fun.
ROUND 1: MOSCOW MULE
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I understand that in real-life, Tom Cruise put together a pretty tough training regimen for you before you started making the movie.
MONICA BARBARO: Yeah, Tom designed this incredible aviation course for us. We started in a Cessna, where we learned basic aviation, then we moved on to an Extra 300, where we did aerobatics and had to start pulling Gs, and then we moved on to the L-39, where we got to get into some dog-fighting, and then a swim test, then we flew in F-18s.
What is it like when you're up there pulling extraordinary amounts of Gs? And how much are you barfing?
JAY ELLIS: Danny, how much are you barfing when you're up there?
DANNY RAMIREZ: I think most of us could say that we were barfing quite a bit. [Laughs] But I've never seen a group of people that puke and rally more than we do. We had a two-hour window to get the scene and so you realize that you can't let whatever's coming out of you prevent you from getting what you have to get.
BARBARO: Whatever's coming out of you.
ELLIS: Cheers to the puke and rally!
GREG TARZAN DAVIS: Basically, after three drinks, you're going to see what it was like in the cockpit with some of these pilots.
What was it like the first time you met Tom?
ELLIS: We did a table read at the production office, and he pulls up on this motorcycle, and there are these double doors at the end of the lobby that open up, and in one move, Tom hops off the motorcycle, pulls his helmet off, his hair is perfect, not a hair sticking up, the helmet just disappears — it floated in the air, honestly — and then he walks through the doors and the light behind him was this perfect orange, and you're like, this man is an angel. And then he walks in with this big smile and he reaches out and he's like, "Hey, I'm Tom, nice to meet you, Jay." And you're like, "You know my name? Wait, what is happening right now?"
Glen, you auditioned with Tom Cruise. What was that like?
GLEN POWELL: I did. I was actually pretty nervous. So what I did was, I went over to my buddy's house because he has a Born on the Fourth of July poster, and I did all of my lines to Cruise in the Born of the Fourth of July poster, so that intense stare I could hopefully match it. When you meet him, you forget that he's one of the biggest movie stars in the world. He's very personable, he's very authentic, and I think we can all call him a friend and mentor now, which is pretty cool.
ROUND 2: MARGARITA
Tell me about the first time you saw the original Top Gun.
RAMIREZ: I saw it as a college sophomore at NYU, and I remember walking away just thinking, Oh, if there was ever a sequel, it would be amazing to take part in it, because it's magic. So, the fact that we're here, it's because I manifested it into existence.
BARBARO: Thank you so much, Danny. Has Tom thanked you?
ELLIS: I saw it for the first time on an Air Force base in Austin, TX. My dad was in the Air Force. I remember going to the base theater and it was packed: families, pilots, mechanics. The feeling of being in a room with so many people who felt like they were onscreen — it was like screaming and hooting and high-fiving and fist-bumps. I think the power of film for me really stands out in that moment, and how powerful storytelling is.
What are the other films that inspired you to take up acting?
DAVIS: Boom! Denzel Washington.
ELLIS: Is that a movie?
DAVIS: You didn't let me finish! It was a dramatic pause. So, we have Training Day, John Q, Man on Fire. There we go.
LEWIS PULLMAN: I wasn't allowed to watch TV growing up, weirdly enough. [The actor is son of Independence Day star Bill Pullman.] But we were allowed to watch two movies a week and we would go to Blockbuster. But also I spent a lot of time in Montana and we had a set of VHS [tapes], one of which was Legend, starring Tom Cruise. He's a young 'un in that and he is incredible. It's one of those movies that's so fantastical and mythological, and he had such conviction, I remember thinking that was pretty spectacular.
DAVIS: Did your dad influence you at all?
PULLMAN: Oh, of course — that goes without saying. I go to him with any questions any time. Nobody can understand the weird problems you might have as well as him, because he knows me better than anyone. He also knows the business better than anyone.
ROUND 3: DEALER'S CHOICE
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Has Tom Cruise continued to be a part of your lives?
BARBARO: I think we all text him semi-regularly. We try not to bug him.
DAVIS: I text him every night: "Goodnight!" "Good morning!" Sometimes I don't get a response. "How's your day going? I saw you on top of a train! Was it scary?"
BARBARO: We do that with each other. We were sending "Goodnight!" messages last night.
DAVIS: That's what it is. Have you ever flown an F-18 before?
I mean, not today.
RAMIREZ: More people have got a Super Bowl ring than [have flown in an F-18]. What I'm saying is, trauma-bonding is real. Have you ever been through trauma?
I think I'm going through it right now.
ELLIS: I think you are too!
RAMIREZ: We've stayed in contact with him.
DAVIS: With who? Me?
RAMIREZ: With Tom, and he's been supportive of any of our storytelling endeavors. He's continued as a mentor.
PULLMAN: Also, a bunch of us are trying to make projects happen for the future because we just can't get enough of each other.
RAMIREZ: Tom had notes on a project that we have together.
POWELL: Lou and Danny are making a project that's awesome, and the one thing I thought was really cool was, they sent me the [pitch] and I was like, alright, I'll read through it, let me get to it in a couple of days. They sent it to Tom — Tom read it faster than I did.
BARBARO: We talk about how lucky we were that Tom was on this film but it doesn't exist without him. That, I think, is just incredible. It's all him, because none of this exists without him. I'm getting drunk. [Laughs] You know, I didn't realize it was hitting me until I tried to form normal sentences.
What is the moment that you'll remember from this whole experience?
PULLMAN: I think at the beginning of this whole process, I was not trying to be Method by any means, but Bob [Pullman's character] is kind of quiet and a little more reserved. So I didn't talk for, like, three days, just because I was like, What does that feel like? To be the guy who's in the corner who's always watching and listening, but not contributing? And also, because I was like: These are all really established, very cool, awesome actors and also I'm terrified to go up in an F-18. And am I supposed to be here? But for me, it was that first night when we went to a Navy bar and it just felt like everyone really took us in, and we instantly were absorbed in this world. I was like, I think I can be a part of this thing.
BARBARO: That's also the moment when Jay took your phone, put it on the bar, and made you buy everyone in the bar drinks.
POWELL: If you leave your cell phone on the bar, you have to buy the entire bar a round of drinks. So, Jay put [Lewis'] cell phone on the bar, so he had to buy the entire round for the entire officer's club.
PULLMAN: I was quiet, trying to f---ing do my thing, and Jay goes, "Hey, buddy, sorry, we haven't talked that much, can I see your phone for a second, I just want to look something up." And everyone was like, "Ring the bell! Yeah, free drinks!" And I was, like, "Wait, sorry?..." It was the first words I probably spoke. "What are the rules here? What's going on right now?"
ELLIS: It was probably one of my finer moments, to be honest with you. I'm actually really proud of myself for that one. But it broke you out of your shell!
Watch the full Three Rounds video above.
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